Thursday, November 15, 2007
A regular and respected commenter challenged me to name five things I admire about Islamic cultures. I tried making a list, wrote down "commitment to charity," and then hit a wall. I'll keep at it.
In the meantime, I offer without comment a bit of news from the fountainhead of Islam:
A court in the ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia is punishing a female victim of gang rape with 200 lashes and six months in jail, a newspaper reported on Thursday.
The 19-year-old woman -- whose six armed attackers have been sentenced to jail terms -- was initially ordered to undergo 90 lashes for "being in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the rape," the Arab News reported.
But in a new verdict issued after Saudi Arabia's Higher Judicial Council ordered a retrial, the court in the eastern town of Al-Qatif more than doubled the number of lashes to 200.
Sadly, even "commitment to charity" is problematic, as needy infidels need not apply. And furthermore, I've read numerous comments by disaffected Middle Easterners that Christian and Jewish charity efforts far outstrip Muslim ones.
It's a shock she was not simply killed by her brothers to protect their "honor." Such as it is.
Still, Islam did produce the lovely mystical sect of Sufism, with its hypnotic spinning Dervish dancers and the transcendent poetry of devotees striving for direct (vs. mediated by draconian legalisms) experience of Allah. Seriously, read something by Rumi sometime. Amazing. You know Sufism can't be all bad because Sufis are a favorite target of Wahabbis and other benighted Takfiri savages.
Then of course there's Algebra (and thanks a lot for that one, by the way!)...
Beyond that, I got nothing...
I have found that some people always tend to make a big deal out of the Islamic commitment to charity. I believer you are supposed to give 2.5-3 percent of your earning per year.
I have never been impressed with this figure since the Christian denomination that I am a member has generally asked for 10 percent of my earnings per year.
Re: Five things
Anybody can find anecdotes to attack any statement about any culture. And obviously things are different in war zones and hotbeds of revolution. But I'll give you one of many things to admire, TH.
Devout Muslims will put themselves in danger to protect their invited guests. (Look at how they have protected Osama.)
Sheikh Hussain Halawah, the secretary general of the European Council for Fatwa and Research:
"The mere entrance of a tourist or a trader or any other foreign citizen into the territories of the Muslim country with a visa is considered to be a pledge of security that is known in Islamic jurisprudence as `ahd aman. In Islam, it is categorically prohibited to violate this pledge of security. Those who enter Muslim territories such as tourists and other categories of people usually enter through the visa or any other legal channel through which they are granted legal access for an interim period, and it is impermissible in Islam to violate the pledge given to them by attacking them, their property, or their honor, etc."
As an American trader I am safer in Cairo than I am in Washington, DC.
Ur, DEC, maybe traders are safe in Islamic countries however Jews, Christians, and women who live there don't seem to be.
What I wonder about is why the necessity to find five things to admire about Islam? It is like trying to find five things to admire about communism except much harder!
Perhaps you are having difficulty because you are paying attention to only one side of the debate in the so-called clash of civilizations, Rick. I don't know. That's just a guess.
In many ways Muslims and Christians have more in common with each other than they have with the political left in the U.S.
DEC is correct (as usual) regarding the security promise in Islam. The SEAL author of "Lone Survivor" states repeatedly that he would have been killed had Afghan villagers not taken him in and protected him from Taliban forces, by way of example. Such a promise is not automatic, however, and varies in different cultures within Islam, so maybe that is a point of confusion.
Does the 5 things question relate to modern day Islamic culture, or any part of Islamic history?
Wouldn't 200 lashes effectively be a death sentence? I don't quite understand the "blame and severely punish the victim" mentality that exists on the Peninsula (and in other tribal cultures), but I guess it has something to do with believing that women exist to seduce men and lead them off of their spiritually pure path. It seems to me that such a notion is consistent with a society where men need to externalize their lack of self control. Are there times in my life when a female has persuaded me to do things I later regretted? Sure, but that's on me -- it's my responsibility; it takes two to tango.
Tourists and other foreigners in Arab lands are targeted for crime like anywhere else, naturally, because most of them are easy pickings and they tend to have money. Some make a business of it. Some just want to kill an infidel. And some (the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood did this, and so did the Salafist Group for Call and Combat in Algeria [a terrible name when translated to English]) use it as a tactic to drive down government revenues by scaring away foreign travelers.
There is a tradition of 'personal' hospitality, where if you are a guest in someone's home they won't harm you, but that is not a uniquely Muslim tradition. It's an Arab tradition, and exists in many other cultures also. Islam only says you have to offer hospitality to other Muslims, especially during the Hajj. (which facilitated trade and academics during the time of the Muslim empire, because travelers could be guaranteed a safe place to rest regardless of wealth) Strict Islam discourages contact with infidels in the first place.
Types of food, by the way, don't have anything to do with 'Muslim culture' unless it's religious in nature. For instance, I love boudain. Southern Louisiana is largely Catholic. Does that make boudain part of Catholic culture, or demonstrate that I like 'Catholic' food? No, it's part of Cajun culture. You can't find boudain in Ireland, or Italy, or Brazil, or other Catholic areas, because it has absolutely nothing to do with Catholicism. Likewise, falafel has nothing to do with Islam.
Besides, falafel is a favorite snack in Israel, the great black beast of the Muslim world. That would make it part of Jewish culture, too.
But I did just think of something to admire... their willingness to fight. Their judgement is often terrible, but their collective ability to think "oh my, a compatriot needs help" and pick up a weapon is worthy of admiration, IMO.
I would suggest that prayer five times daily seems to be more honored in Islam then doing the Daily Office is by most Christians.
A woman (who can remember all one reads on the web?) who lived in an Islamic country commented that that kind of constant, daily spirituality deeply affected her.
With due respect to DF82 regarding food, I guess I'll "respond as I wish" as DEC suggests.
2) Persian Rugs (Heriz, Hamadan, etc.)
4) Arabesque (repeating geometric forms, an element of Islamic art)
5) Sarah Shahi (now that's a nulcear weapon -- seriously hot)
Late to this challenge, but intrigued nonetheless. So here are 7 things I can admire that come from Islamic cultures (past and present).
1. Hospitality and the notion of the honored guest mentioned by others is something I also have experienced, along with the ritual of strong, sweet tea (coffee elsewhere).
2. Hindu-Arabic numerals. Try multiplying DCLXXVI by XIII on your calculator and figuring out what to do with percentages. It was Arabic culture that adopted these numerals by 800 A.D. and in turn introduced them to Europe.
3. There is something admirable in the sound of the human voice, instead of bells or other works of man, calling the faithful to prayer.
4. The names of many stars familiar to me as I scan the night sky - A'chernar (the end of the river Eridanus); Aldeb'aran blazing orange in Taurus; De'neb "the tail of the hen" and Deneb'ola "the lion's tail". My grandfather taught me these and many others (with names in Greek and Latin as well as Arabic).
5. The idea that the marketplace has no fixed price and value is determined by negotiating skill.
6. The Sufi tradition of mystical poetry.
7. In Mali, Islamic culture coexists with older belief systems, both of which are evident in the virtuoso guitar of the late Ali Farka Touré.
Clarification: Algebra and non-Roman numbers were Indian/Hindu creations transmitted in modified form by Arabs. They were not products in either case of Muslim society.
As far as what I admire: I got nothing.
One thing I don't admire: Muslims demand that I in my own country give up: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and eating and drinking during Ramadan because Muslims are offended by them.
And not a peep from the UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITY where are those worthless bunch of suzzles anyway i mean why are they allowing this to happen why dictating to us how to punish our crinimals? WHY DONT WE TELL THE WHOLE DAMN UN TO GET LOST
1) Al-Kitab al-Jabr wa-l-Muqabala, the great work that gave us the words Algebra, and Algorithm, both.
2) Coffee -- discovered in Ethiopia by an Islamic scholar and brought to Europe.
3) The Taj Mahal and the great Mughal dynasty of India.
4) Averroes and Algazel
5) The Thousand and One Nights.
This is all interesting, in part for how deeply a bunch of highly educated Westerners have to dig to find small things they admire. At a minimum, that says something about the inability of Islamic cultures to spread its knowledge by other than geopolitical means. Most educated Americans, I would suggest, know a lot more about the scientific and cultural contributions of the Chinese, historically far more isolated and inaccessable, than they do about Islam.
The other thing I would say is that naming ancient buildings and foods and even single bits of literature from centuries ago, many of which are less the product of Islam than of some incorporated culture (a point Dawnfire makes), is not really telling us anything about the contributions of Islam today. And some of them are damning with faint praise -- the Muslims persecuted Averroes. Not only does this mean that his contributions to Western culture were effectively greater than his contributions to Islam (as I understand it anyway, I'm no intellectual historian), but citing him as a contribution of Islam is a lot likely claiming Galileo as a contribution of Catholicism.
That said, if Islamic culture gets the credit for coffee that pretty much wipes out any harm it has done in the world.
Coffee was discovered in Ethiopia in pre-Islamic times, legend has it, by a goat herder who noticed his goats dancing after eating a certain berry. He took some of the coffee beans to an Ethiopian Christian monk who figured out how to toast the beans and make a drink. Only later did the Arab Muslim traders buy coffee from the Ethiopians.
I can see you have never experienced Islamic hospitality or you would bow your white ass in shame. Also, loyalty to family comes to mind. Muslems don't tend to stuff their parents into retirement homes. Though I don't find much to my liking with the Islamic radicals, we western trash can learn a thing or two about human decency from ordinary muslems.
Anyone who disagrees, pppllllease state in your response how many muslems you know in person. You know, like in first hand experience rather than papers or blogs.
"I can see you have never experienced Islamic hospitality or you would bow your white ass in shame."
You see what you want to see.
"we western trash"
Speak for yourself.
"Anyone who disagrees, pppllllease state in your response how many muslems you know in person."
Dozens, including Egyptians, Sudanese, Iranians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Moroccans, Syrians, and Iraqis. And one Italian, oddly enough. I worked with many of them on a daily basis while I was learning Arabic. Others work(ed) alongside various elements of the US government. Of all of these, the best, nicest people were the Sudanese (blacks) and the Italian. (who was kind of a mutt) The Egyptians, on the other hand, tend to be infected with insufferable arrogance, which they especially lord over other Arabs. (the Suez Canal, the pyramids, and Gamal Abd al-Nasr are all apparent proof of Egyptian superiority in everything... they like to throw around Salah al-Din [Saladin] also, but never mention that he was Kurdish)
Do you know Arabic, I wonder? Since you're such an expert on and admirer of Muslims and all...
GMTim: I was about to call BS on some of those star names that aren't really Arabic, but I Wiki'd one and found that the name you gave "Deneb'ola" is derived from ðanab al-asad, which *is* Arabic and does mean lion's tail.
Gotta back up Kenneth, though, on the coffee thing. Ethiopia was a Christian nation at the time, (and still is) from whom Muhammad once begged sanctuary for his followers.
Dawnfire82: Next time you have an opportunity to look at the constellation Leo, which without much imagination does appear to resemble a lion, the second brightest one, there near the back, is Deneb'ola (variously spelled). Archernar is really a tropical star and I got to know it in southern Africa where I learned the southern constellations. I left out a great one, thought, of Arabic origin - Altair, in Aquila, "the flying" eagle.